Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, said that the organization was not only the first and only organization to present evidence on the use of chemical weapons in the chemical attack on eastern Ghouta in August 2013, but also presented evidence confirming the Assad regime was responsible for the attack that claimed the lives hundreds of civilians.
Whitson, who was speaking during a lecture at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in the Qatari capital on Tuesday, said that HRW findings were behind forcing the Assad regime to sign off on the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. However, the Assad regime forces continue to use the internationally banned poisonous chlorine gas in attacks across Syria.
HRW contributed to the archiving of violations by all parties to the conflict with absolute neutrality, Whitson said.
In a report released on February 13, HRW confirmed that the Assad regime forces conducted coordinated chemical attacks in opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo during the final month of the battle for the city.
The human rights watchdog said it had documented Assad regime helicopters dropping chlorine in residential areas on at least eight occasions between November 17 and December 13, 2016.
The attacks killed at least nine civilians, including four children, and injured around 200, HRW added.
Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview that the way chemical attacks moved in step with the frontline showed they were an integral part of the offensive.
“This is a strong indication that these chlorine attacks were coordinated with the overall military strategy for retaking Aleppo, not the work of a few rogue elements. And it is a strong indication then that senior military officers, the commanders of this military offensive in Aleppo , knew that chlorine was being used, “Solvang added.
Last week, the Syrian Coalition renewed calls on the UN Security Council to initiate judicial proceedings based on the mechanism adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 21, 2016 which called for an investigation of war crimes in Syria and the prosecution of those responsible for the most serious crimes since 2011.
The Coalition called for referring the latest HRW findings in Syria, along with other investigations and similar reports, including the report on Saydnaya Prison by Amnesty International titled “Human Slaughterhouse,” to the ICC to ensure that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity are held accountable. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)